A person who suffered injuries or property damages may file a lawsuit against you in a civil court for damages. Damages can include medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Damages can also include the costs of repairing or replacing any damaged property.
We are aware that most martial arts instruction can be dangerous because it needs some form of physical power, strength, and mental awareness, which can sometimes lead to injuries. With this in mind, it’s the responsibility of all martial arts schools to possess some form of insurance.
Most independent businesses obtain General Liability Insurance. This offers protection from third-party claims against a business such as bodily injury, property damage and theft. Homeowner umbrella policies can also be obtained to protect personal residential property.
Specific Martial Arts Liability Insurance will offer protection for not only bodily injury and property damage, it also includes contractual liability, personal and advertising injuries, products and completed operations. There is also protection to participants with additional coverages for landlords, off-site demos, exhibitions and tournaments.
Hold Harmless Release, Release of Liability or Waiver of Liability
Even though insurance coverage is adequate, a well-written liability waiver is the single best tool a martial arts school owner has to manage their risk.
There are two main types of hold harmless agreements.
The first main type is a broad form which most training facilities use. In this agreement the school has proof of insurance which assumes liability for accidents for the head instructor, assistants and its school and/or building.
The second type of agreement is the intermediate form type. This is used mostly for use of outside the school activities (demos, clinics, tournaments etc.) With this form type, the subcontractor or those responsible for conducting the event assumes liability for any negligence and accidents. But, they are not liable for negligence or accidents that fall under the responsibility of the individual schools. This only depends on who acted in a negligent manner or executed an accident. Both parties can be deemed negligent in some cases.
These waiver forms should contain two important factors in it. This includes an:
- Indemnity form – A statement that an individual takes responsibility for any and all risks and injuries during the activity and they cannot complain or ask for compensation because of their injuries.
- Hold Harmless Agreement – A medical or liability waiver is intended to release the school and the instructors from liability for injury resulting from ordinary negligence.
Liability waivers do not protect a martial arts school from gross negligence, reckless conduct or intentional acts. (resulting in serious injuries)
Some states require specific legal language for the waiver to reasonably hold up in court. (lawyers or the insurance company can provide the required language if necessary)
Important factors to remember:
- Waiver documents should be separate from any membership or participating contract agreement. Separate waivers have a better chance for defense in court.
- It should be specific to the school and the participant activity
- Language of the waiver should be communicated thoroughly with the participant.
- Explaining the safety of the school, the inherent risks of participation and the release of liability.
- Schools may also include an Arbitration Clause in the waivers as an option.
- Parental signatures for minors
- Waivers for minors rarely hold up in court in most states. (Consult a lawyer)
- Waivers should be reviewed and signed every year by the participant. (This is important because the participant or parent will not remember the waiver if they have been a student for several years.)
- When providing a new student packet, have a separate form signed indicated that the packet was given. (This should include copies of all documents signed.)
Consult with a business attorney or your insurance company for proper language within your waivers or school contracts. Research your laws in your state to protect yourself and your school.
Professor Denise Gonzales
Retired Civil Litigation Paralegal – Insurance Defense